The Imperial Toyota Hilux team of South African Giniel de Villiers and German co-driver Dirk von Zitzewitz moved up to second in the overall standings of the Dakar Rally after Monday's stage nine. For a long time, it appeared as if they were on their way to their first stage victory of this year's race.
The pair was fastest in the first part of the special, but a faulty front brake disc caused them to slow down and a puncture lost them more time when they could have taken their number of Dakar special stage victories to 14. Ultimately they finished nine minutes and 39 seconds behind the stage winner Nani Roma.
Race leader Stephane Peterhansel made it a one-two for Mini, with BMW's Orlando Terranova in third and Robbie Gordon fourth in his Hummer. De Villiers was fifth.
Nasser Al-Attiyah, who had been in second place after stage eight, had engine problems (some reports said he hit a tree) a tree and he eventually fell out of the stage and the race.
'Phew, what a day!'
Afterwards De Villiers said: "Phew, what a day! It had started super for us, but again proved the old adage: the Dakar is unpredictable.
"It was a challenging stage which pushed our equipment to the limit, but our South African-built Toyota Hilux handled it well and I am very satisfied. I am naturally happy that we are now in second place. Even on bad days you can be strong."
Von Zitzewitz added: "At the beginning everything went well for us. Then on the second section a defective brake disc forced us to slow. Giniel kept a cool head and had the situation under control.
"The later tyre damage was simply bad luck. We gave it our all through to the finish in order to end the day on a positive note. Now we can look ahead, and are looking forward to the stage to La Rioja."
'A great day!'
Team Principal of the Imperial Toyota Hilux team Glyn Hall commented: "A great day! Giniel led the special stage for 500 kilometres before a front brake disc exploded. This, together with a puncture, lost the team 10 minutes at least.
"The Hilux performed brilliantly in the slippery conditions. It was a shame not to have won the stage and taken second overall at the same time. Tomorrow's stage is similar but a bit faster."
Peterhansel tops the overall standings, 49 minutes and 31 seconds ahead of De Villiers and Von Zitzewitz. They, in turn, are six-and-a-half minutes clear of Mini's Russian duo of Leonid Noviskkiy and Konstantin Zhiltsov.
Four-time champion Cyril Despres, on a KTM, captured the motorcyle stage victory ahead of Spain's Joan Barreda Bort, on a Husqvarna. Fellow Husky rider Allessandro Botturi was third across the line with Portugal's Ruben Faria in fourth.
After starting low down the order, South Africans Darryl Curtis and Riaan van Niekerk of the Broadlink KTM Rally Team found the early going difficult as they were mixed in among the quads.
"It was a very dusty day, narrow mountain pathways in the forests. It was impossible to pass, but we managed to save the day," said Curtis afterwards.
Van Niekerk was 21st on the stage, almost half-an-hour behind the stage winner. Curtis placed 31st, 37 minutes off the pace, and Brett Cummings, riding a Honda, ended in 48th place.
After his fourth place, Faria moved up to the top of the overall standings, which were dominated by KTM riders. Despres is just over five minutes off the lead after his stage victory with Francisco Lopez in third and Ivan Jakes in fourth.
Van Niekerk moved up one place to 14th in the overall standings, while Curtis,a two-time Roof of Africa winner, improved by two places to 17th.